Redefining of marriage impossible.
First of all, I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to offer my research analysis and experience in the issue of homosexuality and the nature and definition of marriage in Canada.
I am a Canadian, a medical student, a husband, and a father of two small children. My undergraduate background is in philosophy and mathematics, and I consider myself a student of the greatest thinkers in history whose thoughts have shaped the destiny of Western civilization. My interest in the debate on same-sex marriage thus has many facets. I speak from the humble perspective of a young Canadian family; I speak as a future doctor, as a scientist, and as a student of philosophy.
Reflection on the debate
A preliminary question to consider is why we are having this debate in the first place. A mere scratch on the surface reveals some disturbing facts:
* Judges, not an elected body of representatives, are increasingly making laws in Canada, as may soon be the case with the definition of marriage.
* Those who are actively pursuing a change in the definition represent an extremely minute, but extremely vociferous, portion of Canadians.
* Policy-makers and activists continually, and perhaps naively, refer to fraudulent, biased or simply dishonest research on homosexuality, same-sex unions, and gay parenting.
* There is hardly any room for objective discussion on this issue without being considered "homophobic" or intolerant.
It is not within the scope of this paper to reflect on the lawmaking power of judges and the weakness of Parliament. However, it is impossible not to notice the growing tendency of judges to "lead the way" where legislators have not made laws. (1)
Canada, we believe, is a democracy, not an oligarchic rule by an intellectual upper class of court justices. Since the adoption of the Charter, the attitude of judges has changed. They no longer seem to believe that their duty is to interpret laws. The question arises: "Should the opinions of appointed jurists outweigh that of the elected lawmakers?" As political scientists Morton and Knopff point out, "While formal constitutional change is purposely made difficult to achieve and is thus rare, real change can and does occur in incremental fashion through judicial interpretation. Each judicial interpretation is like a mini-amendment." (2)
The issue of same-sex marriage is a case in point, as the common law definition of marriage was overwhelmingly supported in the House of Commons on June 8, 1999, when members passed the following motion by a vote of 216-55:
"That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada."
With almost 80% of elected representatives in favour of preserving the definition of marriage, Parliament is still unable to control the will of a handful of judges seeking to undermine Canadian opinion on this matter.
What is most disturbing about this debate is the profound lack of objectivity that characterizes the approach of many activists for change. In this age of evidence-based decision making, especially in the areas of public policy and science, the dishonesty of these scientists, psychologists, doctors and politicians is inexcusable. It seems that no matter how professionals in our society extol the virtues of 'science,' if empirical evidence goes against their beliefs, they often ignore it or avoid it. It is time to be honest and look at what the research is really indicating.
Discussion of this issue, however, is a very prickly affair. An objective, rational discussion is often impossible when one side is met with hostility and labeled biased and bigoted ("homophobic") from the start.
Who are they and what do they want?
Advocates for same-sex marriage are relatively few, but extremely active. Data from the 2001 Canadian Census show that less than 0.5% of the adult populations live in same-sex relationships. (3) Homosexuals have been estimated consistently to make up between one and two percent of the population. (4) And many of these do not even want to be married. Then how have the activists managed to seem like so many? Advocates of same-sex marriage are marked by their passion and persistence. However, those whom they oppose are marked by their silence. This silence is often due to intimidation, but also to a misconceived notion of tolerance, equality and freedom.
In public, and on the political front, same-sex marriage activists frequently ask, "Why shouldn't our relationships be recognized equally within the institution of marriage? We aren't out to undermine conventional marriages." They argue that they are victims of discrimination. They liken their fight to the battle for racial equality in the U.S. during the 1950's and 60's. However, in their own publications, their song changes. It is not one about freedom and equality, but rather one of contempt and hatred for family and its values. Their journals and magazines are full of this kind of language, but here are three noteworthy examples:
Michael Signorile, a noted homosexual writer:
"The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down--'this is simply about equality for gay couples'--and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: an opportunity to reconstruct a traditionally homophobic institution by bringing to it our more equitable queer value system. Sure, marriage would ensure our inheritance rights, child-rearing rights, visitation rights, and a slew of financial benefits that mere "domestic partnership" arrangements have so far failed to deliver. But it is also a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture." (5)
"[The goal is] to fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely, to demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society's moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution...The most subversive action lesbian and gay men can undertake...is to transform the notion of 'family' entirely." (6)
Paula Ettelbrick, former legal director of the Lambda Legal Defence and Education Fund:
"Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking state approval for doing so....Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society." (7)
Columnist Jack Nichols:
"The time has come to reject nostalgia for traditional family groupings and to seek new ways to realize the satisfaction they once brought. More encompassing definitions that bypass blood-line requirements must be instituted... [We must create] fresh new kinds of relationships, bearing no resemblance to past rituals, but opening doors to greater measures of individual happiness." (8)
So what are they looking for? They don't seem to want commitment, since the average number of partners for male homosexual is 300-500, with numbers of over 1000 sex partners commonplace in a quarter of the gay population. (9) They mean something very different when they talk about marriage and monogamy. (There is always an outlet clause for "essential" extramarital relationships.) (10) They don't want to stay together, but they do want the "benefit" of divorce. They want access to children, when research suggests that homosexual foster parents are much more likely to molest children than heterosexuals. (11)
What is their argument?
Same-sex marriage activists champion the cause of equality and freedom; they trumpet the virtue of tolerance. After all, don't we Canadians define ourselves as a tolerant, peaceful nation? Yet it is the misconception of freedom, equality, and tolerance that leaves many Canadians, including higher court justices, confused about homosexuality and marriage.
The law in Canada safeguards equality, recognizing the equal dignity of every man and woman as human persons. In respect to this understanding of equality, it guarantees and protects our rights--the right to life, to freedom of speech, of religion, and of the press. However, the law does not grant the same privileges to individuals, even though they are equal. Children, for instance, do not have the privilege of driving, not because they are unequal or of lesser dignity before the law, but because they lack the responsibility necessary for safe driving.
Activists often liken this debate to the racism debates of the 1960's. But African Americans were discriminated against based on what they are, as if they were less human, less equal, and less worthy of respect. Canada has guaranteed these rights to homosexuals from the very beginning. They are human persons, equal in nature and dignity, and the law protects them as such. But the law does not grant them the privilege of doing everything, just as it would not grant a minority group of rapists the "privilege" of raping. This is because certain kinds of actions by citizens do not serve the common good.
Treating marriage differently is not a judgment on the worth or human dignity of individuals in different types of relationships. The distinction is made because marriage has played a unique role in the perpetuation and stability of society. Nor is it being suggested that distinctions are made on the basis that individuals in one type of relationship are more worthy of respect as human beings than others.
The meaning of marriage
The Perspective of Natural Philosophy
A definition is a statement of the essence of something. Understanding the essence of a thing involves knowing its cause and its purpose, as, for instance, a "roof" is a structure of wood, nails, etc. made to cover a building. According to the erroneous historical view alluded to in the discussion paper, some see the cause of marriage in a medieval institution created for the sake of trading property. The vast majority of cultures, philosophies, religions, and governments have seen it differently. Marriage is an exclusive union of two human persons of complementary sexes, male and female, for the sake of the union of the couple and the production of offspring.
If we look at the thousands of animal species that produce offspring sexually, it becomes apparent that, on a basic biological level, male and female reproductive systems are meant for each other for the purpose of furthering the species. The macroscopic architecture is flawlessly arranged, and the microscopic details are impeccably ordered towards effective reproduction and accommodation of the other sex (e.g. the slight adjustments to the pH levels of the vagina during a woman's menstrual cycle, due in part to vaginal lactobacilli bacteria, accommodate sperm better during ovulation). If the biology that we can see is so complementary, how much more complementary are the infinitely complex neurological and psychological components that correspond to reproduction.
When there is a disconnect between the natural end of an organism and its behaviour, a disorder ensues and the good of the organism is compromised. Man is ordered to woman, and woman to man, and that's a fact in biology and natural philosophy. When this order is breached, as it is in homosexual relations, we expect to see profound consequences. And research is increasingly indicating that we do.
The basic biology also indicates that marriage existed before any form of legislation. A primary motivation in forming the first primeval societies would certainly have been an alliance for the protection of family and offspring. There would never have been a need for eventual legislation to define something so fundamental in engendering the state.
The difference between marriage and homosexual unions
Homosexual activists claim that their relationships are marginalized by society because they are not recognized in legal marriage. They also argue vehemently that their relationships are very similar to heterosexual ones. This is not the case.
REAL Women of Canada has argued that homosexual activists want to tailor marriage to the needs and wants of self-interested adults, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Their message is clear: marriage must have no essential relationship to long-term heterosexual bonding and children, but "must be reduced to a cluster of perks and benefits for adults who happen to be in a consensual sexual liaison."
In genuine marriage, however, "there is set in motion a deep and permanent sexual and emotional bond between one man and one woman which is a life-long, complex, intimate, cohabitational, day-to-day, bonding of two sex-opposite lives. It is tailored to the complex challenges and struggles of long-term heterosexual bonding and the rearing of biological offspring. The heterosexual act in a marriage generates procreation, which weaves men, women and offspring into complex genealogical histories and kinship, forming bridges, from past, present and future generations." (12)
The difference in the sex acts themselves is important here, as Fr. Roger Landry explains. Heterosexual sex is ordered essentially toward procreation and the creation of deep emotional and spiritual ties between the couple. On the other hand, "homosexual love-making-as we can read in pro-homosexuality literature, like the Journal of Homosexuality, or as many candid practising homosexuals unabashedly have told me in conversation-is not geared to a mutual exchange of selves by the bodily expression of a complete gift of oneself to another, but is rather a form of sexual utilitarianism, in which, by mutual consent, the partners use each other for the pleasure that sexual activity brings with it."
What is at stake?
We cannot change what marriage is by saying the word means something different, no more than we can change what an apple is by saying that it is something else. But we can deliberately change the way people look at an apple by saying it is no longer what it was. And this is the idea behind changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.
Redefinition of marriage will not change what people believe about marriage, but it will bring the law against any who continue to hold that it is between a man and a woman. Law is not a suggestion; "it is a force," as George Washington observed. The state would be telling the vast majority of its citizens that their beliefs are no longer valid: civil rights laws would be used against their basic freedom of religion and freedom of speech. This disenfranchisement of citizens from their government is obviously a grave danger for Canadian society.
Although the institution of monogamous marriage is thousands of years old, the fight for same-sex marriage has begun only in this generation. Marriage is a fundamental element in any society. It guarantees future citizens to the state, and not just any citizens, but emotionally and psychologically healthy ones.
Marriage creates a family, the ideal environment for human development. Within the family, it models sexuality for the child. Common sense tells us that children who grow up without an appropriate model for their sexuality will develop poorly, especially in understanding themselves and relating to others. Studies are now showing that the children of homosexuals themselves provide a fair set of evidence that their normal development is seriously compromised. (13)
What can we do?
It is important that the law safeguard the individual and common good of Canadians by preventing a redefinition of marriage. However, it is also important that lawmakers encourage Canadians
* To show respect and extend kindness to all, regardless of sexual orientation. (One can show respect without abandoning one's values).
* To support and encourage marriage, by offering friendship and assistance to families in need. All families from time to time need support and encouragement from other family members, friends, and their community.
* To educate young people on the importance of fidelity and commitment in marriage, as this will profoundly influence the strength and stability of the state.
In the end, it seems we have to admit at least these three points:
* Statistically speaking, the overwhelming majority of Canadians favour the existing status of marriage. All the major religions (Catholicism, Islam, Judaism) uphold marriage as an exclusive relationship between man and woman. The census data indicate that less than 0.5 percent of couples in Canada are same-sex. Court justices, who are unelected, but well-connected lawyers, seem to think they know better than Canadians.
* Redefining marriage does not simply add something to existing marriage. Whether for good or ill, it necessarily undermines heterosexual relationships, family, and social stability.
* Once same-sex marriage or civil unions are recognized under the law, important logical barriers are removed. Individuals whose "orientation" draws them to polygamy, incest, or sexual relationships with younger people will seek legal recognition or "tolerance" of their relationships. They will point to this legislation as authority for the proposition that there is no one moral ideal, and they will question the authority of government to assert moral claims in the area of human sexuality and family.
As a husband who dearly loves his wife, as a father who would sacrifice anything for his children, as a Canadian who loves his country, I have a deep interest in preserving the respect accorded to marriage and family in Canada. I beg the members of the Committee to do all they can to prevent this ideological disaster from occurring.
I want to thank the Committee again for the opportunity to be heard on this issue, one that has been for the most part kept aloof and out of the hands of Canadian citizens. In every democratic nation, the laws derive their power from the citizens, and it is the citizens whose rights are being violated when laws violate the common good. I am sincerely grateful to the Committee members for their time and effort in facilitating the Canadian democratic process.
(1.) Also of great interest is the gradual accumulation of power and lawmaking influence by the large body of unelected members of the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office.
(2.) Rainer Knopff and F.L. Morton, The Charter Revolution and the Court Party.
(3.) Statistics Canada, Profile of Canadian families and households: Diversification continues, October 22,2002. Tables from the 2001 Canadian Census estimate that 0.6% of couples in Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) were same-sex and 0.2% in non-CMA.
(4.) Sell et al., "The Prevalence of Homosexual Behaviour and Attraction in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France: Results of National Population-Based Samples," Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 24 (1995): 235-48. Men who reported any sexual activity with men in the past year averaged between 1% and 2%; figures of women were substantially lower. Estimating the number of persons with homosexual orientation, whether or not they act on it, is problematic: those who experience same-gender sexual attraction do so at different levels, and there is strong disagreement about the level and frequency at which same-sex attraction constitutes a "homosexual" orientation.
(5.) Michelangelo Signorile, "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," Out, June 1996.
(6.) Michelangelo Signorile, "Bridal Wave," Out, December/ January 1994.
(7.) Paula Ettelbrick, quoted in "Since When is Marriage a Path to Liberation?" by William B. Rubenstein, Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Law (New York: The New Press, 1993), pp. 398, 400.
(8.) Jack Nichols, The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists (New York: Prometheus Books, 1996).
(9.) A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, in their classic study of male and female homosexuality, found that 43 percent of white homosexuals had sex with 500 or more partners, with 28 percent having 1,000 or more sex partners: See A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), pp. 308, 9; see also Bell, Weinberg, & Hammersmith, Sexual Preference (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981).
(10.) McWhirter, David, and Mattison, A. The Male Couple (Prentice-Hall, 1984).
(11.) Paul Cameron, Homosexual and Unmarried Foster Parents More Apt To Molest. Presented at Eastern Psychological Association, March 14, 2003.
(12.) Same Sex Unions Are Different. Prepared by REAL Women of Canada, February 2003, quoted in LifeSite News.
(13.) "Referenced as both supporting and weakening the case for parenting by homosexuals, 57 life-story narratives of children with homosexual parents published by Rafkin in 1990 and Saffron in 1996 were subjected to content analysis. Children mentioned one or more problems/concerns in 48 (92%) of 52 families. Of the 213 scored problems, 201 (94%) were attributed to the homosexual parent(s). Older daughters in at least 8 (27%) of 30 families and older sons in at least 2 (20%) of 10 families described themselves as homosexual or bisexual. These findings are inconsistent with propositions that children of homosexuals do not differ appreciably from those who live with married parents or that children of homosexuals are not more apt to engage in homosexuality." Paul Cameron, Children of Homosexual Parents Report Difficult Childhoods (2001). Note also, in a recent book, No Basis: What the Studies Don't Tell us about Same-Sex Parenting, authors Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai examine all 49 studies which purport to find that children raised by same-sex couples fare the same as kids raised in traditional families. The authors show that each study has fundamental flaws or fraudulent misinterpretations of data.
Acknowledgments: I gratefully acknowledge use of resources from Statistics Canada, LifeSite News, REAL Women Canada, Family Research institute, Family institute of Connecticut, CFMC, and Crisis Magazine.
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|Author:||Ferri, Michael J.|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2003|
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